The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art (NEHMA) is an academic art museum located on the campus of Utah State University. The museum is known for its outstanding collection of modern and contemporary art and serves a broad regional audience with its exhibitions, programs and events.
The scope of this project involved a renovation and addition to NEHMA and includes the design of a new 3-story, 8,000 SF addition with archival space to house the permanent collection consisting of over 5,000 artworks by almost 2,000 artists. Significant works include ceramics, paintings, drawings, and sculpture.
The expansion’s goal was to upgrade the museum into an institution that could protect and accommodate world-class works of art and traveling exhibitions, and to increase the visibility and public access to the museum and its collections. The design provides a new entrance experience for patrons, and creates a strong campus presence connecting this key cultural asset to the daily experience of the students, faculty, staff and the public as they circulate through the campus.
The former museum entrance was hidden, prompting the architects to relocate the entry and create an open façade allowing pedestrian circulation through an accessible, three-dimensional entry sequence. This new campus connection fosters interaction with both the building and the collection and offers an enhanced pedestrian experience for this area of campus. The museum design is a quietly restrained form. The architecture does not compete with the adjacent building, a formally expressive Sasaki designed Performing Arts Center to the west. Rather NEHMA creates a new public plaza that connects the two buildings in a complementary response to a visually complex context. Amid a corridor with diverse building forms, programs, scale and materials, the architects opted for an architecture of quiet refinement in dialog - not in competition - with what exists.
The design response offers a simple vertical screen of zinc cladding, referencing the materiality of the performance all but not its form. The line between indoor and outdoor is blurred with a perforated zinc screen allowing the programs and spaces to flow out of the building into the landscaped patios. The porosity of the façade invites glimpses into the museum by the passerby and at night the activity and exhibitions housed within are illuminated. The façade creates a space of transition and entry along a perforated veil that softly defines the edge of the campus arts node, and allows the campus traffic to flow directly into and through the museum.
This welcoming entry sequence invites students of all disciplines to consider the role of art and creative endeavor within the American tradition of the Land Grant College. By opening up views of the collection to the campus through the building façade, the museum’s charge of revealing new knowledge to its visitors can now be realized. Both during the day’s activity and quietly at night.
Sparano + Mooney Architecture is an award-winning architectural practice based in Los Angeles, California and Salt Lake City, Utah, specializing in creating environments with a refined sensitivity toward the land, the environment, and the cultural context of each commission. The practice has cultivated a culture of excellence in design and client service. The firm draws inspiration from timeless modern traditions in architecture, and creates inviting environments that respond to contemporary conditions. The firm’s award-winning work has been widely recognized, and has been featured internationally. Recent publications include the The Plan Magazine (Italy), Wall Street Journal (USA), A+U (Tokyo), Bauwelt (Berlin), and L’Arca (Milan). The practice uses a research-based conceptual design approach, developing architecture that reflects an area of study unique to each client’s vision while carefully considering the site, program, cultural, community and economic contexts.